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WEST JORDAN — Losing a loved one is often difficult, but losing a cherished family member at a young age is especially tragic and even harder to deal with.
"Today is a really hard day," said uncle Wade Reed. "Today is a sad day … a traumatic day."
Reed and his wife Tammy sat in a park in their West Jordan neighborhood Saturday, trying to express how their family was coping with the recent revelation that human remains found in Morgan County were positively identified as their 16-year old niece, Alexis Rasmussen, who had been missing for seven weeks.
For all that time, the family had hopes that Alexis would eventually come home, Reed said. But when police notified them of a possible break in the case, we knew in a gut feeling that this was the beginning of the worst possible nightmare you could ever imagine," he said.
It's a tragedy the family will "never fully recover from, ever," Reed added.
Sept. 10 - Alexis went to the house of Eric and Dea Millerberg to babysit.10:20 p.m. - Surveillance video captures Dea Millerberg and Alexis picking up a prescription at Layton Walgreens. Dea leaves Alexis and resumes night out with Eric Millerberg.11:30 p.m. - Irritated by the long night out, Miera sends the last of 10-15 unanswered texts. She tells Alexis to spend the night there and make sure she gets paid. The Millerbergs say that Alexis left the house about this time to see a friend.12:30 a.m. - Alexis exchanges texts with a boy. The boy says he did not see Alexis that night.
Oct. 7 - The Millerbergs are arrested on unrelated charges, but they are still on the radar of the investigation.
Oct. 18 - Police receive tip from confidential informant about possible gravesite and recover remains.
Oct. 19 - Medical Examiner begins autopsy on body found in Morgan County.
Oct. 22 - Police confirm that body belongs to Alexis Rasmussen.
On the "Bring Alexis Home" Facebook page, the family stated, "Alexis touched so many people in the past 50 days, just as she did in the time she was here. Life will never be the same. Now, sadly we mourn for the loss of our baby girl. As a family, we will slowly try to heal, knowing we will never fully recover."
On Saturday, investigators announced that remains found in a remote Morgan County gravesite were those of the missing teen.
North Ogden police spokesman Paul Rhoades said the state Medical Examiner determined through fingerprint and dental records late Friday that the remains recovered by investigators earlier this week were those of Alexis.
The teenager was last seen Sept. 10, when she was babysitting for Eric and Dea Millerberg. She was last heard from around 11:30 p.m., when she texted her mother saying the Millerbergs had not returned home.
Police said a tip from a confidential informant led them to an isolated area of Morgan County where the teenager's remains were discovered Wednesday.
"It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we make this announcement," Rhoades said in a news release Saturday. "This is certainly not the outcome we were hoping for, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the Miera and Rasmussen families at this time."
Rhoades said police had been working on "parallel investigations" since Alexis went missing. One team investigated sightings and other tips that the teen was still alive, while the other looked into the possibility of foul play.
"As the investigations progressed, a clearer picture developed (that) led us to direct more and more time and resources toward looking to the possibility that Alexis' disappearance was criminal in nature," he said.
Rhoades said investigators are still working to determine the cause of Alexis' death, as well as who is responsible.
The Millerbergs have been arrested on unrelated charges, but they have not been named as suspects in Alexis' disappearance. Neighbors, however, say they've been concerned about the Millerbergs and that police have visited the home several times for domestic disputes.
Eric Millerberg has a long criminal history, with frequent arrests and charges in the 1990s for burglary, theft and drug related crimes.
Police have conducted searches on Millerberg home since Alexis was reported missing, but they haven't said whether those searches were conducted as part of the missing person investigation.
For the Reeds and the rest of their family, the news of Alexis' death has cast a dark pall over the life of someone they described as a happy, upbeat person who had big plans for her life.
She had hopes and dreams and was always looking toward the future.
–- Tammy Reed, aunt
"She wanted to be a nurse," Tammy Reed said. "She had hopes and dreams and was always looking toward the future."
Alexis had a beautiful spirit and her ebullient personality, which Tammy Reed said makes her untimely death even more heartbreaking.
"Everything about Lexi was remarkable," she said. "(She touched people with) her heart, her smile, her eyes."
"It's been a devastating 42 days," Wade Reed said. "We all want to know how it happened, why and who was involved."
Alexis' friend, Lexus Goodpasture, said not knowing what happened to her friend has been the hardest part of the whole process. There have been a number of rumors, Goodpasture said, but nothing is worse than the thought that someone could have intentionally hurt the girl.
Still, there aren't words for how she felt when she learned her friend had died.
"I'm not really sure how to explain it," Goodpasture said. "It's just like an emptiness. I've never felt anything like this. I just miss her so much. She may be in a better place, but I don't feel she should be gone. She's only 16. So many people love her and care about her. She should just still be here living her life."
Goodpasture said the death has shocked the relatively "peaceful" community of North Ogden, where such incidents, especially to someone so young, are rare.
"Things like this just don't happen up here," she said. "When they do, it's a big issue. You never think it will happen to someone you know."
Goodpasture reiterated the sentiments of Alexis' family members, saying the teenager was a loyal friend who was there for any problem, no matter how small. Goodpasture said she was certain she would never meet another like Alexis.
"I just can't even put her into words," she said. "She was just amazing. She knew how to make people happy. That was a great trait she had. She had a smile that could make you melt."